Mystery Dog Illness: What Is It And What Should I Do?

basset hound

The mystery illness that has affected dogs across the country recently, has spread to at least 14 states. The respiratory condition, which is yet to be identified, can be fatal.

We don’t want to spread panic but we think awareness and advice are important under the circumstances. So here is what we know so far and what dog parents can do to help protect their dogs.

What is the mystery dog illness?

Veterinarians and scientists have yet to identify for certain the cause of the pneumonia-like illness but there are common conditions, signs and symptoms for which you should be on the lookout. According to the AVMA they are:

  • Chronic mild-moderate tracheobronchitis − a sudden or long-term inflammation of the trachea and bronchial airways that is barely or non-responsive to antibiotics.
  • Chronic pneumonia not responsive to antibiotics.
  • Acute pneumonia that quickly turns severe (can be as short as 24 hours).
  • Difficulty or rapid breathing, wheezing, dehydration, fever, nasal or eye discharge, weight loss, loss of appetite and lethargy.

Where is the mystery dog illness?

The illness has been detected, currently, in 14 states. They are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

These are just the states where cases have been reported. The illness appears to be transmissible and our guess is it’s likely to affect more of the country if it hasn’t already.

How is the mystery illness treated?

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca of told USA Today that vets are concentrating on treating the symptoms.

“Since the agent causing the infection has not been identified, the treatment is not aimed at killing any pathogen in particular,” Vidal-Abarca said. “Instead, the treatment is aimed at mitigating clinical signs and facilitating the dog’s recovery.”

It includes, she said:

  • Oxygen therapy.
  • Use of a nebulizer (a drug delivery device used to administer medication in the form of a mist inhaled into the dog’s lungs).
  • Antibiotics (to treat secondary infection).
  • Measures to ensure the dog has “adequate nutrition” and hydration (including the use of intravenous fluids).

How do I protect my dog from the mystery illness?

The general advice from veterinary professionals is to minimize contact with other dogs. This means, where possible:

  • Avoid dog parks.
  • Avoid using doggy daycare or boarding.
  • Avoid grooming shops.
  • Use walkers or sitters who will take your dog solo.
  • Make sure your dog is fully vaccinated, especially against kennel cough.
  • Make sure your dog is in good general health (this includes a good diet).

And please, if your dog shows any signs of respiratory issues, please contact your vet and isolate your dog from other animals.

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